|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|The Stockholm Syndrome|
The conservative pundits warning about Sweden missed two obvious points. The first is that, as the video above shows, Sweden seems like a pretty nice place. Better to invoke the specter of a not-so-nice place when warning of the potential consequences of enacting liberal policies. The second point is that even if our tax burden and our government spending as a share of our economy were as high as Sweden's, that wouldn't make us like Sweden. Sweden is known for (among other things) honest, effective government. As Wolfgang Münchau of the Financial Times has noted, Italians have a tax burden similar to that of the Swedes, but get far less effective government from it. Similarly, invidious comparisons between us and Sweden (e.g., the international education comparisons brought up by The Atlantic when they posted on this Daily Show video) are specious because of the homogeneity of Sweden's population. There is a non-trivial number of Americans of Swedish ancestry; I'd bet they'd do fine in any objective comparison with their cousins in Sweden, if anyone wants to compare apples to apples.
Instead of ominously warning that we're in danger of turning into a pleasant European country if certain liberal policies are enacted, conservatives would be smarter to point out that, regardless of what policies are enacted here, we'll still be Americans, and this will still be America. We need to keep our differences in mind when considering policies: e.g., as we suggested in a recent post, the sort of energy policy that works for a small country that juts out into the North Sea might not work for another country that spans a continent.
Another thought: the bit at the end of the video with the Swedish pop star was a cleverly chosen example of Swedish egalitarianism, but it's worth noting that Sweden has produced its share of extreme wealth as well. For example, the Swede Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, is listed as the fifth-richest man on this year's Forbes list of billionaires (Kamprad moved to Switzerland though, presumably at least partly for tax purposes). One nice touch in that video was the inclusion of the ominous theme from Dune. You can hear more of that theme at about 40 seconds into the trailer below: